The Making of Downton Abbey

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Highclere Castle Made Famous By Downton Abbey

image via JBUK_planet on Flickr

Many of us are hooked and can’t wait for Season 3 of the hugely successful drama series, Downton Abbey. (Season 3 is not slated to begin until 2013.) It, of course, features the magnificent Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Currently the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the Castle but remain closely involved in the Castle’s day to day life and future.

Julian Fellowes, longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family, had Highclere Castle in mind as he wrote Downton Abbey. The castle has a fascinating past and has been the setting of many film and television productions, in addition to weddings and other special events.

The house has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679. In 1838, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform his home into a grand mansion to impress the world. The structural work on the interior of the Castle was completed in 1878. Once built, the Castle became a center of political life during the late Victorian era.

During the First World War, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, transformed the Castle into a hospital, and patients began to arrive from Flanders in September 1914. Most of Season 2 of the Downton Abbey television show was devoted to this part of the Castle’s history.  It returned to its status a private home. In 1922, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the first global world media event.

Want to learn more? Author and landscape architect Barbara Geiger will be at the Glen Ellyn Public Library on Thursday, June 7 at 7 pm to present a program on The Making of Downton Abbey. She will have a slide presentation about the aristocratic way of life during the Victorian era, land ownership patterns, and how inheritance laws produced great estates like Highclere Castle.  This program is co-sponsored by Glen Ellyn Preservation.

-Ann, Adult Programming Coordinator

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